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The value of being an immigrant startup founder

You pack your things with your belongings and hopes and you are ready to travel to another country to live a better life. The American dream for a lot of immigrants has meant being free and able to start their own business.

According to a 2016 report from the New American Economy, immigrants represent a 13 % of the United States population and a 20.6% of the country’s entrepreneurs. This research also shows that 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list have been founded or co-founded by immigrants. The same year, the National Immigration Forum found that immigrant-owned businesses employ more than 19 million people and generate $4.8 trillion in revenue.

50 out of 91 of the country’s $1 billion startup companies (55%) have at least one immigrant founder as of 2018, has found the National Foundation for American Policy. Stuart Anderson, senior Contributor to Forbes and one of the conducting leaders of this research explains that the collective value of these 50 immigrant-founded companies is $248 billion and they create an average of more than 1,200 jobs per company, the vast majority in the U.S. Not only that, but 75 of the 91 companies (82%) have at least one immigrant making the company grow by filling key management or product development positions.

More than half of unicorns in the U.S. today have come from entrepreneurs who were born outside the U.S, according to Niko Bonatsos, contributor to TechCrunch and managing director at General Catalyst Partners. Immigrants are almost twice as likely as native-born Americans to become entrepreneurs, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

But the truth is that an immigrant must fight much more to achieve the same as a national citizen. For Bonatsos, founders who have graduated in another country have a hard time trying to establish their own reputation and attract VC attention. They can also have difficulties in learning and speaking the language.

“Being an immigrant has allowed me to see the flipside and the other side of the coin. Going to another country has brought me  immense  opportunities  but also, I  have  felt  the  lack  of inclusivity.  I have been  challenged  everyday:  funny  looks,  being  looked  down,  smirks  for  my accent…” says baMa’s CEO, Maria Maso.

On the brighter side, according to the journalist Nina Roberts, the main benefit of being an immigrant founder is “having global connections and perhaps fluency in at least two languages and cultures.” In addition, they can be more “culturally fluid,” have an open mind, know how a foreign startup ecosystem works and make quick assessment of potential investments. For Bonatsos, immigrant founders tend to “develop empathy and a deep appreciation for how others live” and “have a worldview that helps them think outside the box, challenge the status quo and stand out in a new country.”

All research makes a clear and outstanding point: without immigrants allowed in the country, there will be fewer startups, jobs and major industries. Immigrants are necessary for top American ecosystems to expand. Covid-19 has created a borderless VC networking environment from where immigrants should take advantage.

As baMa’s Advisory Board Member, Arnobio Morelix says, “international talent has fuelled the U.S.’s rise as the global hub for technological innovation and losing this would eliminate opportunities of fostering the next Google, Tesla or SpaceX.

“The U.S. is a young country with a lot of diversity and that is a big asset that we should not overlook. We need to capitalize diversity through inclusion which will make us more competitive worldwide”- concludes Maria Maso.

About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.

Catherine Carey Arribas baMa Content Manager

February 2021

Feature image Health disparities news entry

Health disparities

Technology as a solution: promises and pitfalls

Advanced medical technology has allowed us to extend our life span and generally live more fulfilling and flourishing lives. However, the benefits of novel medical technology have not been experienced equally across all races and genders. Instead, some of these novel tools have had unintended harmful consequences for both people of color and women.

For example, it was discovered that an algorithm used on more than 200 million people in the U.S. to predict which patients needed additional healthcare services systematically discriminated against Black patients. The algorithm underestimated the severity of Black patients’ medical conditions and prioritized treating white patients with additional healthcare services over Black patients even though they had equivalent health conditions.

Precision and personalized medicine, lauded as being a revolutionary approach to healthcare, is less accessible to the Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities because of a lack of genomic data on non-white patients. Research has also revealed that women, especially women of color, are more likely to experience adverse medical outcomes from medical technologies. Of over 340,000 medical device-related injuries or deaths reported to the Food and Drug Administration, 67% of the patients were women.

Design and Development Divide

The healthcare predictive algorithm is just one example of how racial blind spots in the development of the algorithm actually amplified racial biases over a large group of people and worsened healthcare disparities for Black patients.

The medical implant industry is another illustration of how the effects of bias can be magnified through technology design. For instance, a popular hip replacement implant was more than twice as likely to fail in females than in males despite being indicated as gender-neutral because the device developers did not take into account how hip movement differs between the males and females.

A crucial problem, and one prevalent across countless industries, is the lack of racial and gender representation in the key decision makers of medical device and healthcare companies. At the early stage, Black Americans represent only 8% of leadership teams in digital health startups and the larger the company gets, the less likely you are to see Black representation in the leadership.

In fact, only one Fortune 500 healthcare company, Merck, currently has a black CEO. While women make up 70-80% of the healthcare workforce, only 20% of leadership roles in large medical device companies are filled by women. Zooming out, when considering healthcare more broadly to include medical and pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers, women of color make up only 4% of the C-suite positions.

Considering that Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy, twice as likely to experience infertility compared to white women, and underrepresented in clinical trials that require consent while also being overrepresented in studies that do not, this number is remarkably unacceptable.

Representation of pipelines in healthcare in 2017,  by gender and ethnicity, % of total: Representation of women decreases as the responsibility level of the job increases. Women of color are particularly underrepresented in senior and leadership positions.  Healthcare industry broadly includes drug and medical-device manufacturers, service providers, and payers. Letters denote position hierarchy with A: Entry Level, B: Manager, C: Senior manager/director, D: Vice president,   E: Senior vice president, F: C-suite.

Unique problems require unique solutions

Minority and women founders are uniquely capable of providing solutions for the numerous unmet needs in the healthcare industry and data has shown us there is no shortage of talented pipeline. Unfortunately, both minority and women founders face incredible financial hurdles that make it difficult for them to grow and scale their companies.

Black and Latin founders receive less than 3% of venture capital dollars, even though they are the fastest growing demographic of founders in the U.S. Although women make up 80% of the healthcare decisions in a household and are more likely to utilize digital health technologies compared to men, only 3% of digital health deals go to women’s health startups.

When compounding both gender and race, Black female founders raised only 0.06% of total venture capital dollars going to tech in from 2009 to 2017, meaning the amount of dollars going to Black female founders in the MedTech space is astronomically lower.

However, research has shown us time and time again that diversity actually leads to 30% higher returns on investments compared to companies with white-only founding teams. Teams with at least one female founder outraised male-only founding companies and had more favorable exit opportunities.

The lack of early access to capital means that minority and women founders have to bootstrap their companies for longer periods of time and take on greater risks compared to white founders. Importantly, an incredibly large market, primed for innovation, remains untapped.

Filling the Gap

If minority and women founders in the medical device and healthcare industry are not being supported a large percentage of Americans will continue to operate within an inefficient healthcare system that does not adequately fulfill their needs. Investors need to realize the massive market potential in the MedTech Industry, specifically geared towards minorities and females.

Examples of market trends in healthcare for females and minorities

Angel Investors are perfectly suited for filling the gap of initial funding female and minority founders need to kick start their companies. However, there is still a need for activating more diverse angel investors who can realize the market opportunities unseen or unappreciated by traditionally white-male investors. When we increase the diversity of the people who get to decide what gets funded, we ultimately diversify the startups that are allowed to grow and thrive.

At Business Angel Minority Association, we are working to activate more diverse investors, as well as educate current investors on the benefits of investing in minority-led startups. It is our mission to make the innovation ecosystem one that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive and we believe that that starts with empowering people from diverse backgrounds to make the decisions of what problems need to be solved in their communities.

Madeleine Lu

baMa Investor Relations Manager

baMa's Business Angels Spotlight series (1)

‘Just do it! Invest in minority-led startups’Andrea Course

Andrea Course works as Venture Principal at Shell Ventures and is baMa’s latest advisory board member. In honour of her incorporation into baMa’s family we have taken some time to speak and discuss with her some topics regarding the energy transition sector and diversity in venture capital.

IN: How has 2020 been for the energy transition sector?

ANDREA: it has been interesting. We have seen a lot of changes with the pandemic like people placing higher interest into energy transition and what we can do to achieve more sustainable energy products. Even though the pandemic was very disruptive to our industry I think that it has helped to accelerate the energy transition.

IN: What are your future perspectives for the energy transition sector?

ANDREA: Shell Ventures will continue to invest in three main areas. First, in resources that encompass everything that has to do with our core business and how to make our operations more efficient and greener. We also look at things like biofuels, hydrogen, carbon capture, storage, and utilisation. Second, we will continue to work to find new ways of power generation, for example using wind and solar energy. Lastly, we make sure to look at the future of mobility. This includes thinking about new business models, what is going to happen in the future and how to remain relevant in a world
where electric vehicles will become the norm.

IN: What does baMa mean to you?

ANDREA: Pure excitement. Myself being a minority, makes me able to totally relate to the struggles that we face in venture capital. baMa is a great organisation that will bring the resources to the people who need them the most. There are so many talented people that are minorities and many enterprises that have been started by minorities. baMa is about bringing a high level of visibility to them, which is absolutely needed.

IN: What could be done to fix the lack of diversity?

ANDREA: Part of the problem is having diverse teams that are making the decisions in the first place. You tend to invest in people that look like you, so fixing the problem means having diverse VC firms and investors. Research has shown time after time that VC teams that are diverse have enhanced productivity, and a better financial performance. Diversity is not only good for start-ups but also for investors.

IN: You state that diversity matters in a multinational corporation and a start-up, but can we expect some differences in the implementation of diversity depending on whether it is a big corporation or a start-up?

ANDREA: The key is making it intentional. Whether you are a multinational corporation or a start-up, you need to be intentional when you are hiring diversity in the workforce. You need to make sure that you are aware of inherited biases that make you like people that are like you in order to not end up hiring a team that looks and thinks exactly like you. Being intentional when you are hiring, means not only hiring because somebody is diverse, it is about giving the same opportunities to everybody. There is enough diverse talent to choose from.

IN: Can we add something to diversity to achieve a good financial performance?

ANDREA: If you count with diverse teams, you have better financial performance because you have different points of view and you tend to evaluate opportunities in a much better way. Good financial performance comes not only from a diversity of gender and race, but also from diverse backgrounds and education.

IN: Could we expect more diversity in venture capital and investment in general?

ANDREA: I hope so. The pandemic was tough for women in general so last year was not ideal. We were making a lot of process and last year it stopped. According to Pitchbook investment in VC was at an all-time high but investment in women founded companies was the lowest it has been in the past 5 years. Hopefully we can go back to the point where we were before the pandemic.

IN: What could be done to increase diversity? For example, establish quotas to hire a certain percentage of women in the workplace?

ANDREA: I’m in the middle on this one. You should not give a job to a woman just because of being one. It wouldn’t be fair to the women or the men. Quotas should be used just to make sure that people have a fair process. They can be used to guarantee that at least there are enough diverse candidates in the funnel and that they are being evaluated the same way during the hiring process. Quotas should not be used to fill in
positions with unqualified women because it will then become a counterproductive measure. The same applies to people with diverse backgrounds. Diverse talent exists and there are enough qualified people that must be considered.

IN: What advices could you give new start-up founders and venture capitalist that want to invest in new and minority own companies?

ANDREA: Just do it. Do not look at it as if there was any difference in investing in a minority led start-up or hiring a diverse person to your team. There is no difference. When it comes to women, for example, I always use the same example: when you go to the dentist, does it really matter if the person cleaning your teeth is a woman or a man? No. You don’t think that one is going to be better that the other. I just hope that one day we will see every job through this lens. It does not matter whether the startup is led by a man, a woman, a white person, etc. We are all just people in the end.

IN: What do you expect this year for baMa?

ANDREA: I hope that there is going to be a lot of growth and that we can get the word out. Also, to achieve more members and to reach regular people that are looking to invest for the first time or that want to help people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to raise funds. We all need to work together to try and make a difference and to continue fixing the lack of diversity.

About Andrea Course: Course currently serves as Venture Principal at Shell Ventures where she works together with innovative companies that could accelerate the energy and mobility transformation. With more than 12 years of experience in the energy sector, Course brings a multifaceted expertise in energy innovation.

About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.

Catherine Carey Arribas baMa

Communications Manager January 2021

andrea course

Welcome Andrea Course

baMa’s new Advisory Board Member

In an evermore expanding, globalized, and environmentally conscious world, Andrea Course is dedicated to advancing technologies and business models disrupting the global energy system. It is our honor to welcome Course as a new Advisory Board Member to the Business Angel Minority Association.

Course currently serves as Venture Principal at Shell Ventures where she works at the forefront of innovative energy transition companies. With more than 12 years of experience in the energy sector, Course brings a multifaceted expertise in energy innovation.

Prior to joining Shell Ventures, Course worked as Venture Principal at Schlumberger Technology Investments. Course also has years of operational and leadership positions through her work as Engineering manager and Product manager at Cameron and OneSubsea (both Schlumberger

“Andrea is a leader in energy transition and plays a key role in the investment community internationally. baMa members are constantly looking for new diverse lead opportunities to change the colors of the energy industry and to get above average returns. Course has been a
baMa member since 2020 and in 2021 she is joining the baMa Advisory Board, providing us invaluable knowledge on The Industry.” – Maria Maso, baMa CEO

“Diversity matters regardless if you are in a multinational corporation or a start-up. Research has shown time and time again that it enhances creativity and improves the financial performance of a team. I am really proud to join baMa in their effort to bridge the investment gap in minority-led startups and minority driven markets” – Andrea Course Venture Principal at Shell Ventures and baMa Advisory Board member

Course received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from the University of Central Oklahoma, a Master of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical Engineering from
the University of Oklahoma, and a Master of Business Administration focused on Organizational Leadership from the University of Houston. She has also been named one of 100 Global Corporate Venture Rising Stars. You can find her and contact her via her LinkedIn.

About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.


A roller-coaster ride for 2021

As the new year begins, we take a dive into what could possibly be the trends in Venture Capital and Early-Stage Investment

In the middle of an ongoing pandemic and within an atmosphere of uncertainty in the investment sector, there has been quickly some experts trying to predict which are the trends to follow and where is smart to invest this year. Overall, 2020 “should teach investors that well-established principles, like investing for the long-term with a low- cost diversified portfolio and only checking your investment balance occasionally, are the best advice” says Bob Sullivan, Forbes Advisor and contributor in Nasdaq.

Maren Thomas Bannon, partner at January Ventures, has advanced that we could expect 5 major trends in 2021. Firstly, pre-seed could be the most rampant stage in venture. Seed round has become bigger and many seed funds are leading between three or five million dollar seed rounds. This has led to “the seed round today looking a lot like a Series A round a decade ago in terms of both size and traction” says Bannon. This change has transformed the pre-seed round into a process of a couple of rounds in one or two years. Although they are not as competitive as seed rounds, and there is less multi stage funds, “the investor could be more willing to take up the pre-seed opportunity and for it to become more institutionalized”, Bannon states.

A second trend to expect is the predominance of challenger funds over large and established ones. There has been the rise of different venture fund models that give the founder a range of options to raise capital and investment and that bring a diverse range of investors to early-stage startups.

We could also expect more venture funds being closed without lawyers because “more funds are using automation and tooling for the venture value chain: deal sourcing, investment decision-making and fund and portfolio management” explains Philipp Moehring, an early-stage investor from Berlin and partner for Europe at AngelList. As Bannon puts it, this automation has removed barriers to allow more people, especially rising investors, to perform more efficiently and set up funds.

Another big trend is online communities as the main tech hubs in 2021. When we think about operating in a pandemic world, it is obvious that we should expect an extension of the virtual early-stage ecosystem. This means that startups can hire people regardless of their location and find investors in the same way. In Bannon’s own words, “the world will never go back to the inefficiency of always needing to meet in person to make a decision, close a sale or write a check.”

Due to the pandemic, it has been clear that building a trustful and efficient brand is ever more important. Venture capitalist and early-stage founders must rely more on online channels where the brand and community matter more. With more founders and investors than ever before, the ones with powerful brands will be the ones to stand out, attract talent and capital.

Lastly, Bannon states that we should expect to see more activity than ever in early- stage investment because startups that will be built in 2021 “will have the advantage of being built for a post-Covid world from day one.” They will not face difficulties of adaptation like the ones that have been working prior to Covid.

Added to the trends of Bannon, Forbes Advisor and writer in Nasdaq, Bob Sullivan explains what realities investors and founders should keep in mind for this 2021. Firstly, the impact of the measures taken by Biden and the duration of the pandemic because this “will have enormous macro-economic impacts that will hit every single investment sector.” In this aspect, the Covid-19 vaccine will most likely increase pharmaceutical stocks and public companies involved will be tremendously rewarded.

As the world starts returning to normality, we could expect more demand for travel stocks, restaurant chains stocks and less demand for the work from home stocks and tech stocks (although they will continue to triumph).

The buoyant sectors of 2021 are the ones enhanced by the pandemic, and include healthcare, remote working, productivity, logistics and innovation industries. For the general partner and CEO of Pegasus Tech Ventures, Anis Uzzaman, there will be different sectors particularly profitable. These are Covid-19 testing and vaccine development industries, remote working, videoconferencing and shipping companies, Telehealth and telemedicine firms and online education, Virtual reality and Augmented Reality technologies. All of these will have to be accompanied by an increased development of 5G infrastructure, high-speed internet, application development updates from corporations and startups, robotics and industrial automation.

2021 could represent an amazing opportunity to rethink investing strategies, but most importantly investors and founders should “avoid the temptation to over- focus on the short term” states Sullivan. Although investment slowed down in spring, VCs invested $36.5 billion in the third quarter of 2020 and, approximately, one-quarter of angel investors have said that they have actually increased their investment activity since Covid-19 began, elucidates Nasdaq. With all of that, there is to expect that venture capital and early-stage investment will continue to expand, although the road ahead is unsettled.

Catherine Carey Arribas baMa Content Manager

baMa Partnership With Sogal

SoGal Houston and baMa ​join forces to highlight diversity and empower minorities in the Houston Innovation ecosystem

[Houston / 8/10/2020]​ -​SoGal Foundation​, a non-profit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship, and ​baMa – Business Angel Minority Association​,​ have signed a partnership to collaborate on different educational and promotional initiatives around entrepreneurship and early stage investment oriented to young female students.

Women received ​just 2.2% of venture capital funding in 2018​ and ​less than .1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009​. Additionally, only about 1% of venture-backed companies have a black founder or ​Latin founder​ (male or female). This gender and diversity inequality hinders significant economic growth, since 85% of consumer purchases are made by women, and ​startups with higher ethnic diversity tend to produce financial returns above their industry norm​.

SoGal Foundation supports diverse founders and funders from underrepresented backgrounds by providing educational resources and connections to SoGal’s ​global community in 40+ international chapters. SoGal Houston chapter strives to educate budding entrepreneurs and build a safe space for minorities and diverse founders to share their stories, struggles and wins.

“SoGal was born out of the need to put millennial and generation Z women front and center in entrepreneurship and VC globally,” said ​Pocket Sun​, Founder and Co-President of SoGal Foundation. “Women and other underrepresented founders are underestimated and undercapitalized, yet when provided with resources, network, and capital, female founders are statistically proven to outperform their male counterparts. There has been enough data, research, and education but too few actions and capital allocation. We just need to allocate capital to women and the rest will sort itself out.”

“Diversity plays an important role in early-stage investment decisions. The existing Business Angel associations are not diverse enough and this translates to a lack of pre-seed and seed angel investment in Minority-led startups”, “this partnership with SoGal will help us support future generations and introduce them to the investment ecosystem. We as an organization are committed to the next generation. By investing in the youth, we are investing in the future”, says Maria Maso, Founder and CEO of baMa.

About SoGal:

SoGal Foundation​ is the largest global platform for diverse entrepreneurs and investors with 40 chapters and 100,000+ members across 5 continents around the world. SoGal’s 501(c)(3) non-profit mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and investing. ​Contact:​ Sruti Ramaswamy, Chapter Lead, SoGal Foundation

About baMa:

Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education. ​Contact:​ Maria Maso, CEO; ​